Lining the walls of my childhood memories and the reminiscence of long summer days spent surfing San Onofre are the soft reverberative echoes of waking to my mother quietly strumming her acoustic guitar.
This guitar was purchased from a neighbor, a then unknown Bob Hurley, in Huntington Beach, California before I was born.
Hearing acoustic music, whether it is produced via dulcimer, mandolin, banjo, ukelele, or guitar, stirs memories and evokes strange, sometimes provocative, emotions. No other music has quite the same effect as a single human voice accompanied by or rather, accompanying, acoustic strings. In one hand, nimble fingers of callused skin press string to wood; on the other, dancing fingertips of wind pluck and brush at the strings.
Listening to Kurt Denison, it is clear he intimately understands this connection between human and music. Additionally, he knows the great potential of music to reach out across space and time to connect human hearts. With his first album, entitled One, he sets out to do just this. If this weren’t itself feat enough, he has also pledged to donate 25% of the sales from One to Save The Waves Coalition.
What/Who are your primary inspirations?
For me it’s becoming one with what’s already inspired. In that way the inspiration is really unnameable, all around and within. Things that move me; nature, the waves, people, and life have all helped inspire songs that I’ve written, but it’s truly limitless.
The minimalism of the singer-songwriter, acoustic genre seems to me a much more intimate form of musicianship than much of what we hear today. What is it about this genre that appeals to you?
It’s easier to feel closer to the source of a song when things are stripped down to their essential quality. That is simplicity. A truly authentic relationship with another depends on dissolving the illusion of separation. The opportunity and potential that comes with that is appealing to me.
Tell us about your newly released album, One.
One is much more than just chapter one, or my first album. There’s a constant theme of oneness and coming together throughout these songs. It’s a celebration of the life and love that we all share. You won’t find any fancy effects or hardly any layering. The album is really just me, an ukulele or guitar, and if you listen close enough you could maybe hear the rain outside the window. I wanted it to sound the same as it would if I was to grab a guitar and join some friends on the beach, or wherever they are.
You are giving 25% of the proceeds from the album sales of One to the Save The Waves Coalition. What compelled you to do this?
Giving back to the inspiration. The feeling a coastline conveys has the power to transform and translate essential life lessons around the world. The ease that waves have, the way they flow, move, and break, moves us to play and be at peace. Save The Waves Coalition is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the coastal environment, with an emphasis on the surf zone, and educating the public about its value. Values worth sharing and carrying on.
What initially attracted you to the guitar and when did you begin to play? Do you play other instruments as well?
My introduction to the guitar really started as I was becoming more aware of what I was listening to. I was around 14 years old. One of my best memories is laying in the sun on my parents bed on the weekends. I would turn on their stereo to whatever album was in it. Mostly things from the 60’s and 70’s. I remember laying there wanting to learn how to play The Beatles. To solve for that I picked up an electric guitar and a small amp and started playing. I didn’t start writing lyrics and songs with guitar until I was about 17. I started playing the piano, taking lessons and performing when I was 8. I also play the saxophone and have recently picked up an ukulele.
You have partnered with Cordoba Guitars in this venture. Can you tell us a little about them?
Cordoba is an innovative group that primarily focuses on designing and building acoustic guitars and ukuleles. I’ve tried all kinds of guitars from all different manufacturers. The first time I picked up a Cordoba guitar it was magic. The way their instruments sang and played, I finally felt at home. I just started tapping on my capo on the recording of “Simple” and the guitar began resonating beautiful tones without even touching the strings.
In your opinion, why is music important? What would you like to accomplish through your music?
As far as I can really remember music has been a part of my life. A lot of other things have come and go. Things that pass the test of time, can endlessly expand and are truly sustainable are important. Music has that potential. Nature has that potential. Each and every one of us have that potential. If you notice, it’s happening in this very moment. I hope that through my music I can bring people together around that, and to the organizations and causes that support it.
To hear more from Kurt Denison, click here.